Massachusetts Institute of Technology: Class of 2017

Majors and Minors: Student Profiles

Choosing a major is an important and personal decision that will impact your time at MIT and beyond. How you arrive at your decision is as individual as how you choose to use your major after college. Don't panic, don't rush, and do use every available resource to explore majors.

Finding out how other upperclassmen made their decision can be a great source of inspiration and guidance to you, so these profiles provide tips on how some MIT students decided on their major.

Kathleen Candon (Course 18C)

"Coming into MIT, I thought I would major in 10B. I loved chemistry in high school, wanted to be an engineer, and thought biotechnology was cool, so chemical engineering seemed like a good idea to me. Once I attended some major information panels and talked to upperclassmen, I realized Course 10 wasn't what I thought it was and it probably wasn't for me. I then had no idea what I wanted to major in. I kept talking with older students and asking what they liked and didn't like about their majors. I went to an MIT libraries session on how to choose your major and UAAP gatherings about it. I decided to try a UROP in Course 9 last winter because it sounded interesting. I realized that I enjoyed doing the research and learning about Course 9 for my UROP, but I really liked the coding and work with data that I was doing. I wasn't sure that I was ready to choose a major, but when I had to, 18C seemed like the right choice. I really enjoyed both of my math classes last year, wanted to do some computer science things, enjoyed the focus on problem solving, and wanted a major with some flexibility. One thing I really like about 18C is it leaves so many doors open for me; there are many different paths I can take after graduation. I also have flexibility in my course schedule that allows me to try out random classes that I think sound interesting that are outside of my major. I have been considering minors in a few different courses, but I'm going to continue to keep taking classes that interest me and see if that turns into a minor or not."

Molly Tracy (Course 10, Concentration in 21M)

When first arriving at MIT, I was unsure between 5 and 10. All I knew was I loved chemistry in high school and wanted to do more of it. I asked as many upperclassmen as I could about chemistry vs. chemical engineering, and that really helped me to differentiate between the two majors (upperclassmen are a great source of information!). I took 5.112 and then 5.12 in my freshman year, so I really only had chemistry classes before declaring my major. However, my internship over the summer after my freshman year had me working with both chemists and chemical engineers. I ended up choosing chemical engineering because I also enjoy problem solving and optimization. Also, as someone who isn't quite sure of what they want to do after graduation, chemical engineering was a great option because of its enormous versatility. Now as a sophomore, I am taking more engineering-focused classes. It's certainly a different feel than pure chemistry, but chemistry knowledge is still applied, and the material is very interesting to me. Sometimes, when two majors may seem similar, it can be tough to choose. That's when a little digging around as a freshman can help you figure out which major is slightly more tailored to your interests. Upperclassmen, UROPs, internships, advisors, and introductory classes are generally effective ways to learn more about which major is meant for you. I also have a very strong passion for music. Many MIT students are gifted in the fine arts and don't want to leave that behind when they go to a tech school. A good way to continue in the fine arts (or another non-tech-related field) is a concentration. All MIT students are required to have a HASS concentration. I have to take 3-4 music-related HASS classes (which I intend to do anyway), and I fulfill a requirement while growing musically. It's a win-win! I am pursuing an engineering degree while continuing with my love of music through a HASS concentration.

Jacob London (Course 14)

Before coming to MIT, I was interested in government and public policy. I knew that political science and economics would allow me to further explore these interests. Throughout my freshman year, I was wary of the fact that GIRs wouldn't directly contribute to my knowledge of public policy. However, I still found that these classes were valuable because I became much more comfortable solving quantitative problems. After taking classes in political science and economics, I found that economics was better suited to my interests. Political science offered rich discussion, the opportunity to write frequently, and a strong foundation in statistical analysis. However, I quickly realized that economics was more geared towards the analysis of public policy.

Alexandra Eyerman (Course 6-7)

I was really unsure what major I wanted to be when I first got here. I thought that everything looked really cool and interesting. What helped me first to narrow it down was classes; I found out that I really didn't like physics all that much, and that I liked biology. So that narrowed it down, for me, to courses 20, 10B, 7, or 9. I actually wasn't really thinking about 6/7 until I took the Python class over IAP. I'd actually never done any programming before I took that class, and I found out that I really liked coding. In order to combine that best with biology, I started looking at 6/7. Since I still had a lot of majors to choose from, I talked with upperclassmen and figured out what the other courses were like. I talked with an upperclassman about course 20, for example, and she told me about the classes she took and the classes she was taking - and a lot of the classes she told me about were not all that interesting to me. I didn't want to spend most of my time here being in classes that I didn't enjoy, so I decided that course 20 was not the way to go for me. Similar experiences led me to rule out 10B and 9, as well. That left me down to two different majors: 6/7 or 7. I decided that I wanted to try something different, so I declared 6/7. I went to some of the biology major panels and asked someone who recently switched to 6/7 why he did. For me, it was all about talking to upperclassmen about their majors and learning from their experiences to figure out what I really liked and how that aligned with my goals.

Andrea Gutierrez Marty (Course 15)

As a freshman I only ever thought of declaring an engineering major. I didn't even consider any other major, because Hey, this is MIT, why would I choose anything else? I began my sophomore year as course 10. The intro class, 10.10, was extremely difficult for me which wasn't the issue, the problem was that I found the material to be boring. My peers in the class loved the subject and thrived while I fell behind and eventually had to drop the class. I was still determined to be an engineering major. I momentarily declared course 3, but as I explored options with my advisor and took on a UROP, I realized, I really didn't want to pursue this either. I spent the summer in Boston and literally became best friends with one of the career counselors and S3 deans. Every week I would go in and talk about my skills, interests, and passions. It's never easy thinking about what you want out of life, and at 19 years old, its actually pretty scary. Eventually, the career counselor helped me realize that what I wanted out of those engineering majors was somewhere along the lines of project management. I went through the course 15 website and looked through the OCW pages of all required courses. I was so excited to find topics that interested me in marketing, consumer products, and data analysis. The way classes were taught through group discussion and participation, cases and write ups, group work, and slightly longer lectures to allow for all this. This is what I had imagined my college experience to be more like and what I was missing from the classes I had taken so far. My junior fall, I made the switch to course 15 and never looked back. I have loved and succeeded in my course 15 classes ever since. Sure, I get the occasional remarks from my peers on how my "easy" my life must be. I just tell them they found what they like to do and I found my thing. Just because its different, doesn't mean I don't work as hard, the material isn't as difficult, or that the major isn't as legit. All majors at MIT require hard work, dedication, and passion to succeed. All you have to do is find out what excites you.

Natzem Lima (Course 2)

How do I choose my major? This is the question that has a black hole of answers. For me it started with analyzing a little bit about how we respond to vague questions, generally the larger the scope of the question, the more difficult to answer. However, when the question is narrowed down, it then becomes easier to answer. I began to think about why this happens and came to the conclusion that people love to think about the possibilities, but because so many exist and because so many of them are awesome, it becomes difficult to choose which direction to head in. However, when the question is narrowed, our mind can hone in one area and produce much more meaningful results. I applied this same thinking to choosing my major. There are so many incredible opportunities at MIT, each one with very distinct rewards. To try to narrow this huge realm of opportunity, I took myself back to my days as a kid and thought about the interests that I had then, because to me those were more pure and genuine thoughts. Through this, I understood that something in my brain wired me to really love solving problems in the physical world and to really love invention. After this, I knew that being a mechanical engineer would best help supplement these two connections which I deeply care for.